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ON August 24, 1975 my first Placitas home was revealed to me in an unexpected twist of fate. I found it advertised in the Sunday Journal, and I persuaded my husband to take a look at it, just for fun. This was to become the first day of my first incarnation as a Placitan. The house was adobe on a spectacular 1.5 acre lot in the Village, bordering a live acequia lined with cottonwoods. We had been living in the university area of Albuquerque at the time, but everything about Placitas clearly spelled NEW MEXICO.
Having first moved to The Land of Enchantment in 1970 from Massachusetts, I was ready to make the connection to this mysterious place and move beyond the Albuquerque borders that kept me loosely affiliated with my East Coast lifestyle. It was time to say adios to my typical neighborhood with its invasive street lighting, sidewalks and repetitive houses all in straight rows. I considered it a "move up" to Placitas, where I discovered narrow winding roads and fresh springs of clear water that channeled through meandering irrigation ditches. Dramatic panoramas drew the eye to the horizon in all directions, and the peaceful star-filled night skies meant just one thing: this place had soul! Placitas and Bernalillo were originally Anasazi settlements before the Spanish arrived here in the 16th century. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in North America. Being incredibly rich in history, it was a place where I could take pleasure in living among the Hispanic family networks that surrounded me in the village, along with the many friendly gringos who had populated the hills over the years. "Here's a place to put down some roots," I thought, so I seized the opportunity to be grafted to the magnificent Land of Enchantment through its land and people.
MY destiny in Placitas unfolded as stages in a dream. My two daughters spent their childhood in the village. The blessings of clean, fresh air, truly great friends and neighbors, and the presence of the majestic Sandia mountains shielding me from the intensity of Albuquerque created a safe and peaceful setting and provided all the best elements for nurturing my young family. While driving home from Albuquerque I would marvel at the way my spirit was transformed upon entering this serene and magical place where I lived. I breathed deeply as I allowed the tranquil beauty of the pinon and juniper studded hills to soften the rough edges created by my own hectic routines and responsibilities as a mom and a business owner. It was Natural New Mexico, nothing artificial, contrived or out of place. Yes, as far as I was concerned, Placitas had it all.Our family enjoyed frequent outings to the Jemez Mountains, a spectacular 45-minute drive from Placitas. The dances and feast days at Jemez Pueblo seemed surreal. Jemez Hot Springs became a natural retreat for restoring body and mind. Placitas turned out to be a gateway to other worlds, accessible and remote at the same time.
Quaint and charming as it was, this first episode of my life in Placitas was to last only 13 years. When I left in 1988, my small adobe had doubled in size through additions. The apricot trees on our property were huge, and for two years straight I couldn't find the time to harvest them. It became clear to me that it was time to move on. I sold my house to a very appreciative California couple who still refer to it as "Pepi's house" when asked where they live. I felt more than a touch of melancholy on our last night in this truly enchanting home. We relocated to Santa Fe and during the four years I lived in the City Different, I reflected often on my extraordinary experiences during those happy Placitas days and appreciated anew how uniquely "Santa Fe-style" Placitas really was.
Destiny intervened again in 1997 when I built a home in Placitas Trails with a Santa Fe building partner. My plan was to sell the house, but I decided to move into it instead. It was more than my beautiful new home that drew me back to Placitas. It was much more than the familiar landmarks and vistas, or the proximity to the urban conveniences of Albuquerque. It was a wonderfully close-knit community to which I was returning. Seeing the former postmistress, Orcelia, working at the local grocery store, The Merc, in Placitas Homesteads, was my first clue that I had rediscovered one of the priceless treasures of my past. Orcelia and I traded photos of our grandchildren, and tried to make light of the gray hairs we'd sprouted through the years.